The first time I took the laundry into the elevator on Thursday, I’d forgotten the bag of quarters. The second time, I found the washer in the 6th floor laundry room occupied, so I headed to the basement. In the basement I realized I was one quarter short. Three tries to get my first chore spinning.
I could bullet point the day, but you get the idea. At 3:30 I headed out to return a library book and pick up my apartment key from a friend who looked after Gus while we were away. Take 1: I forgot the library book. Take 2: I forgot my bike helmet. Take 3: I found my bike with a mysterious flat tire. David had left when I left, so I wouldn’t be able to get back into the apartment for my pump or my car key. Nothing to do but walk instead of ride.
My disgruntlement level was relatively low, but I couldn’t help thinking about all the emails that sprang up in my inbox over the week we spent relaxing with family. David’s brother Ben returned from a 228-day deployment last Friday, and we got to be part of the welcome wagon.
We soaked up the family time with jubilation: playing games, preparing favorite foods, and reveling in sunshine.
I loved setting aside my computer for most of the week, but after spending Thursday morning unpacking, doing laundry, and cleaning, I was ready to start catching up with the outside world. Picking up my keys had suddenly mushroomed from a quick jaunt to a substantial time suck.
I started off at a brisk pace. One hitch (on top of the no-bike hitch): River Fest has taken over the mile between my home and my friend’s. (River Fest is Wichita’s annual fair: carnival rides, concerts, and a whole lotta funnel cake.) Instead of a quiet, direct route, I’d be navigating fences, farm animals, and far more pedestrians than I’ve ever seen in downtown Wichita.
My attire was less than ideal: sandals and a t-shirt that provoked questioning glances and conversation. (I cherish my Grub Street volunteer t-shirt but usually reserve it for home.)
I kept inviting myself into the present moment, but my self put up a fight. It wasn’t until the final block of my circuitous journey that the heat finally melted my resistance. With gravel sneaking into my shoes and sweat beading my upper lip, I gave up on my plan for the afternoon. I could think of nowhere better to be.
On the way home I paused to shake dirt off my feet, and two butterflies waltzed past. I remembered a quote from the new calendar page: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Transformation requires struggle. Sometimes it looks like a butterfly wrestling its way out of the cocoon, and sometimes it looks like a productivity addict receiving interruptions for the gifts they are. I brushed away insects and sweat. I took in the sky.
I arrived home plum tuckered out. I washed my gritty feet in the tub, poured myself a glass of ice water, and plopped down on the couch. Gus immediately joined me.
Our little apartment became a palace: shade; protection from insects; clean, chilled water; a devoted and cuddly creature. I sat still, listening to the noise of the festival outside.
My day of inconveniences began to look like a microcosm of our year in Kansas. Sometimes you make your plans and find them thwarted at every turn. You ride against the wind for a while, and then you weep and wail and cast about for someone to blame. If you’re fortunate, you eventually give yourself over to reality. You stop asking what you’ve done wrong and start believing that this failure will teach you more than any of your successes. You realize you wouldn’t trade the person you’ve become for any of the goals you’d planned to achieve.
You sit on the couch with your cat and your water and when your husband gets home he says, “You look at peace with the world.” And you are.